Compassion and the Martial Artist
I truly believe you can only give as much compassion as you can afford. When you are very strong, you can afford to show a lot of compassion. Not very strong? You risk your compassion being perceived as weakness, and you are vulnerable to suffering intolerable loss. This is one irony of martial arts training: the better fighter you are, the less you seem to need to fight.
I wanted to study martial arts when I was a youth, to be ready to stand up for those unfairly abused by bullies. Does that make sense to you that I would want to learn “how to win fights” as a way to encourage more compassion and peace in the world?
As we study how to be protectors, we might find it easier talking about compassion than actually puting those insights to work. Theory is easier than practice, especially when it comes to making space for people who may annoy us.
There are two aspects of compassion.
First there is “feeling of compassion”. You look at others and emphathize with their feelings and perspectives, understand why they do or say or think what they do, and wish them a better experience.
Second is “application of compassion”, where you know how and when to offer a helping hand – or in some cases a loving kick in the rear end.
Compassion is a skill. Developed over time, it gives us an increasing appreciation of the human condition and cultivates a set of skilful means for handling the challenges of life inside and outside the dojo. We are less likely to short-circuit to violent treatment of others when we understand their confusion or pain – maybe we can rise above taking their hostility personally. We are so well-trained and powerful that we are less likely to fear and be threatened by those who are dominated by fear and threat in their lives.
– An-shu Stephen K. Hayes